On Sexual Harassment
That bosses often abuse their power is, and long has been, a fact of life. Since men are, more often than not, apt to be the bosses, whether sexual harassment is involved or not depends as much on the boss as anything.
Whether harassment is a part of the boss’ standard operating procedure or not is probably crucial in making a judgment on the situation. Sex is a very odd thing. In my career, I have often held a great deal of power over a great many women, both subordinates and students. A rule of thumb was to never date your students. That said, my wife of more than thirty years was once a student. She was a student of mine when I first met her, in fact. I did not date her then, but she was a student of mine later, when I was involved with her, but before we were married.
Generally, I think I was pretty circumspect. There was one time, though, that I may have gone a bit far. I didn’t actually have any direct power over the woman involved, but my position was definitely superior to hers and the power question was not clear. I was very much attracted to her and wanted more from our relationship than I later concluded she did. I had heard, on the grapevine, i suppose, that the surefire way to get a woman to have sex with you was to get her alone and just refuse to leave without having had sex with her. I employed this advice to it’s fullest.
At the time, which was about forty years ago, The issue of sexual harassment never crossed my mind. But looking back on it, I think it should have. At any rate, I have never felt good about the whole incident.
It was, however, not my standard operating procedure, as it appears it was with many of my peers and even our present groper in chief, so I had plenty of room to rationalize. People like Weinstein seem to have been more the rule than the exception. Of course, sex is weird, so who is to say? Not me, that’s for sure.
Which dances around the problem a bit. How is one to deal with the nuances that come with sexual attraction and workplace relationships? I suppose there is no fixed answer to that. But you can surely see character in how some take advantage of their power, while others do not. The bottom line must lie, somehow, in being sure the attraction is mutual. But, if it is not, where is the future in that?
Good, though, is the recent focus the topic has drawn. The topic needs to be brought into the open, and bosses, of all stripes, need to be more aware of their power and more respectful of the rights of their employees.